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Harris County Department of Education Needs to be Closed

Sep 25, 2011 by

This is an amazing piece of research on the part of Colleen Vera. She is a fiscally responsible Texan who believes everyone must do his/her part to root out wasteful spending of our tax dollars. Colleen has spent countless hours putting this report together to show that the Harris County Department of Education (Houston, Texas) is a boondoggle that must be cut. I suspect such entities as HCDE exist all over this country. Colleen presents her action plan toward the end of this article; and her own example should spur other Americans to rise up, dig out the truth, and expose these examples of wasteful spending. Donna Garner

Colleen Vera – When you look for “government waste” you don’t have to go all the way to Washington, D.C. Harris County has the mother lode of waste right here in Texas. It is called the “Harris County Department of Education”(HCDE). 5 reasons it should be shut down:

  • · it is obsolete
  • · duplicates services
  • · is unconstitutional
  • · operates “for-profit” businesses
  • · performs poorly

#1 It is Obsolete

It all started in 1866 with the Texas Constitution. Article 7. 1 reads,

“…it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.” [i][i]

At first the Legislature gave county boards authority to operate local public schools, so in 1889 HCDE was formed and served about 900 students in Harris County. Over time, the Legislature allowed “independent school districts” to form if they had 500 students and a tax base. Houston ISD formed in the 1920’s.

Across the state, as students moved to independent school districts, the county education boards shut themselves down and handed over their authority, assets and tax base to the new independent districts. [ii][ii]

But not HCDE. Even after all their students moved to public schools operated by independent school districts, HCDE’s board did not shut itself down. Their board members were not willing to give up their power and authority to tax. Instead, all these years Harris County taxpayers have had to pay county education taxes as well as their independent school district taxes.

They pay for the election of two school boards as well as the salaries and infrastructure of two separate school districts. Even though the HCDE Board knows they are obsolete, they continue to tax and invent reasons why they should still exist. Their employees lobby to keep their cushy jobs and the taxpayers even support an entire “marketing department” to spread the word all over the country about the “great job” HCDE does.[iii][iii]

I have always been told…”follow the money”…and that certainly rings true here. HCDE’s own website reads:

“The passage of the Elementary and Secondary Act of 1964 created many federal projects. Programs such as Adult Education, Manpower and Neighborhood Youth Corps became available to districts through HCDE. During this time, HCDE also added a department to serve special education students.…The role of HCDE as an agent of education equalization today is far beyond anything foreseen by the founders in 1889.” [iv][iv]

When HCDE no longer had schools to operate, they attached to federal programs to justify their existence because that is where the big education money flows deep- “Head Start”, “Safe Schools”, “Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA)”, etc. Ever wonder how the liberal programs the Feds want to push into conservative places like Texas get in the door? Through organizations like HCDE that use taxpayer money to support liberal programs and organizations. The two largest grants awarded to HCDE in 09-10 w ere both from the Feds:

  • Head Start for $12,786,762 and
  • 21st Century CLC[v][v] (after school programs) for $7,331,250.[vi][vi]

As a matter of fact, HCDE is so attached to the Feds that President Obama’s Education Czar, Arne Duncan, even visited in person. [vii][vii]

You just have to read their board meeting minutes to see that HCDE is all about money – contracts, grants, travel and purchases take up most of the agenda. You’ll also notice the lack of discussion about student achievement and curriculum. Awards and commendation are mentioned about employees, but nothing about students. LULAC shows it gratitude for use of HCDE meeting space and the League of Women Voters is commended for its work with HCDE, but there is no mention of student organizations. Discussions are even held on how to spread federal programs and “outreach” to state officials (a nice way to say tax dollars spent to lobby for more liberal programs)[viii][viii]

Some board meeting notes:

12/14/2010[ix][ix]

#4 Edward Ybarra with LULAC Council 402 extended his gratitude to the Board

and Administration for allowing LULAC the use of HCDE meeting rooms for

their meetings throughout the year.

#5F. Angie Chesnut reported on Carl Schwartz’s recent hospitalization and welcomed

him back..Carl Schwartz reportedon his recent emergency visit to the hospital

and reported that he is feeling better.

11/16/2010[x][x]

#5D. Debra Kerner reported on her attendance to a governance session of the Head

Start Policy Council. Louis Evans reported on his attendance to the October

21,2010 Lights on Afterschool breakfast and congratulated Doug Kleiner and

Lisa Caruthersand other staff for a job well done.

Debra Kerner reported on the staff appreciation luncheon held before the

November 16, 2010 Board Meeting and thanked all the staff for their hard work

during the gubernatorial debate October 31, 2010.Jim Henley thanked staff for

bringing HCDE to the forefront of the community with the gubernatorial debate

and the visit from Arne Duncan earlier in the year

10/19/2010[xi][xi]

#4 Howard Sims, Head Start Policy Council Chairperson, addressed the Board

regarding the Head Start Program and spoke on the importance of the program.

Mr. Sims thanked the Board for the support it provides to the program.

#5H Debra Kerner thanked HCDE staff for working the gubernatorial debate.

Debra Kerner announced the Civic Leadership Breakfast taking place 10/21/10

10/19/2010[xii][xii]

#2 A detailed recap of the gubernatorial debate hosted by HCDE and the League

of Women Voters on October 3, 2010 at HCDE followed and the Board

discussed ways to thank the staff who participated in holding the event;

#3. … It was requested that Jimmy Wynn attend the next committee meeting to

discuss outreach to state officials…Mr. Evans suggested that in 2011 we plan

town hall meetings in each of the Congressional districts to brief the public on

the reauthorization of ESEA. Ms.Chesnut suggested that we reach out to the

ISD Trustees to develop relationships with them and said she was currently

discussing this possibility with Dr. Griffin…

The Texas Legislature has not had the backbone to force HCDE to shut down. In the 1990’s when the Legislature reformed the education code, they left a loophole allowing the two remaining county school boards in Texas to continue collection of a second school district tax and continue operation of their obsolete county districts. So, for over 60 years, Harris and Dallas County residents have carried an extra tax burden that no other counties in the state have had to bear because of the greed and lack of leadership of elected officials.[xiii][xiii]

#2 – Duplication of Services

If you live in Harris County you already know about your local independent school district but it is time to learn about HCDE, the second district you are forced to support with your hard earned tax dollars. The Board consists of seven members whose elections, training, travel, meals, etc. are all paid with tax dollars. [xiv][xiv]

Their Organizational Chart which consists of:

o Board of Trustees

o HCDE Attorney

o Superintendent of Schools

o Consultant for School Governance

o 4 x Assistant Superintendents

o 27 x Various Director/Management Positions

These 41 positions are needed to manage the 1,293 employees and extra contract labor. [xv][xv]

We don’t know the exact dollar amounts because HCDE salaries are not reported in the same fashion as every other public school district in the state if Texas.[xvi][xvi]

So how many faculty and staff is that per student? Great question!!!

According to reports from Texas Education Agency (TEA) – the organization that the Texas Legislature puts in charge of collecting information and data on schools in Texas- HCDE operates 7 schools with a grand total of “0” students. That is right. TEA reports “ZERO” students educated by HCDE.[xvii][xvii]

District

HARRIS COUNTY DEPT OF ED (101-000)

District Type County Region

INDEPENDENT HARRIS COUNTY (101) 04

Mailing Address Web Address

6300 IRVINGTON BLVD www.hcde-texas.org

HOUSTON, TX 77022-5618

Phone Fax District Email

(713) 694-6300 (713) 696-0730 jsawyer@hcde-texas.org

Superintendent Enrollment as of Oct 2010

DR JOHN SAWYER 0

#Enrolled Campus# Campus name Type of instruction[xviii][xviii]

0

’101000001 HIGHPOINT NORTH CAMPUS ALTERNATIVE INSTRUCTIONAL

0

’101000002 HIGHPOINT EAST CAMPUS ALTERNATIVE INSTRUCTIONAL

0

’101000003 ACADEMIC BEHAVIOR CTR EAST ALTERNATIVE INSTRUCTIONAL

0

’101000004 ACADEMIC BEHAVIOR CTR WEST ALTERNATIVE INSTRUCTIONAL

0

’101000005 ACADEMIC BEHAVIOR CTR NE ALTERNATIVE INSTRUCTIONAL

0

’101000006 ZENITH PROJECT ALTERNATIVE INSTRUCTIONAL

0

’101000007 NEW H S ALTERNATIVE INSTRUCTIONAL

All 7 schools in HCDE are reported by TEA as having “0” students enrolled

Not only does HCDE report “0” students enrolled in their schools,

HCDE is not reported by TEA Pupil Projection Reports.[xix][xix]

But the TEA Payment Ledger show HCDE’s share of the Foundation Allotment from the state in 10-11 alone:[xx][xx]

2010-2011 Foundation District: HARRIS COUNTY DEPT OF ED, 101000 Payment Class: 1

Date

Description

Current Allotment

Adjustment Amount

Payment Amount

Paid to Date

Remaining Balance

09/14/10

Foundation Allotment

$865,025

$0

$865,025

09/24/10

September Foundation Monthly Payment

$129,754

$129,754

$735,271

10/22/10

October Foundation Monthly Payment

$86,762

$216,516

$648,509

11/19/10

Foundation Allotment

$933,484

$216,516

$716,968

11/29/10

November Foundation Monthly Payment

$86,252

$302,768

$630,716

12/24/10

December Foundation Monthly Payment

$97,130

$399,898

$533,586

01/24/11

January Foundation Monthly Payment

$97,113

$497,011

$436,473

02/24/11

February Foundation Monthly Payment

$48,449

$545,460

$388,024

03/24/11

March Foundation Monthly Payment

$97,006

$642,466

$291,018

05/24/11

May Foundation Monthly Payment

$96,909

$739,375

$194,109

06/24/11

June Foundation Monthly Payment

$97,055

$836,430

$97,054

07/22/11

July Foundation Monthly Payment

$97,054

$933,484

$0

 

 

Now how can that be – No students listed but all that money? It could be because HCDE operates “alternative schools”. Their own description is:

 

“Students served on the ABC campuses have needs that are not met in their home districts for varied reasons. Two Highpoint Schools serve expelled and adjudicated youth in grades six through twelve. All students served in the Academic and Behavior Centers and Highpoint Schools are referred/placed directly from their home districts that have contract agreements with HCDE for these services. The ultimate goal for students served in all our programs is successful reintegration back into their home districts.” [xxi][xxi]

 

Either TEA has overlooked HCDE and not made HCDE report their students’ attendance, test scores, drop-out rates, etc. or TEA allows HCDE’s students to be included in their home school’s reports. But if that is the case, how can any district be expected to report a student it had to expel? Something does not add up.

 

So, if HCDE is a school district whose focus is NOT educating the children inside its district boundaries, just what do they do with the nearly $16,000,000 of local tax dollars they collect each year?

 

According to HCDE, they provide:

 

“…educational resources to school districts and the general public throughout Harris County and beyond. Services include adult education, programs to promote safe schools, after-school programs, therapy services, professional development for educators, special schools, alternative certification for principals and teachers, and Head Start programs. We offer purchasing procurement, grant development, program research and evaluation, school finance support and records management. Since 1889, our services continue to evolve to meet the needs of our education public. HCDE is dedicated to the equalization of educational opportunity and to the advancement of public schools. We impact the educational community through visionary leadership, shared resources and innovative programs. “ [xxii][xxii]

 

That sounds good but just why does Harris County need a separate school district to do this? How do all the other counties in Texas (except Dallas) get by without needing to pay for a separate county department of education?

 

Simple, they use the Texas Regional Educational Service Center system as well as other organizations that specialize in educational support. TEA has Harris County assigned to the Region 4 Service Center [xxiii][xxiii]which provides many duplicate services:[xxiv][xxiv]

Purchasing Cooperatives, Adult Education, Art Staff Development, Central Office

Administrators Academy, Bilingual Staff Development, Choice Facilities Partners,

Digital Learning, Educator Certification, ESL-ISOL, Virtual Instructor’s Academy

(VIATx), etc.

 

Around the state other service centers also provide duplicate services to HCDE.

Region 10 provides not only Purchasing Cooperatives, but also Fiscal Management Services, School Finance Council Training and Financial Consulting.

Region 20 provides Grant Evaluation and SBDM Training.[xxv][xxv]

 

In a comparison of HCDE to some of its peers, MGT of America found that 26 of the 43 services offered by HCDE were also offered by Region 4 which is also located inside Harris County – a whopping 10.97 miles away from HCDE![xxvi][xxvi]

 

According to MGT of America’s report, others providing duplicate or similar services as HCDE are:[xxvii][xxvii]

 

HCDE SERVICE/PROGRAM OTHER ENTITIES PROVIDING SIMILAR SERVICES

Grant Writing Universities, Sterling and Associates, District grant writers, some RESCs (regional service centers)

Research and Evaluation Universities, University of Houston, Office of Community Projects(more community than district), Mainly Universities (i.e., UT’s School of Public Health)

Adult Education Houston Community College, Community-based or

Faith-based programs, Sylvan Learning Systems, Reg. IV has an Adult Ed program. Last division done in 1988

Houston Community College Adult Ed. serves Houston ISD

North Harris Community College

Region 4 serves 4 or 5 districts

Next division will be in when reauthorization occurs

CASE City of Houston has an after-school program

Head Start NCI, Gulf Coast, AVANCE, (Head Start is divided among 4

grantees, so no one else in their areas can provide Head Start)

 

Special Schools No Peers (unless JJAEP downtown)

JJAEP, New Bay Treatment, Shiloh

Avendale Behavior Treatment and Training Center (BTTC)

Community Education Partners (CEP) – Private

Therapy Services Special Education Directors in Districts, National companies (last4-5 years), Supplemental Services, Soliant, Invo

ECI No others in area, Mental Health, Texas Children’s Hospital and satellites, Pediatric Home Health Co., Kid Development Therapies(KDT)

 

 

 

 

TEA posts a list of 74 Alternative Schools in Harris County.

If you remove the 7 that are run by HCDE, you still have 67 alternative schools in Harris County alone.[xxviii][xxviii]

 

ECI posts 7 locations besides HCDE in Harris County where their services are provided.[xxix][xxix]

 

The biggest argument always used to keep HCDE open is the fact that a section of Head Start operates out of the HCDE building. We all know that Head Start is a federal program that operates nationwide. Different groups contract with the Feds to operate the program all around the country. Every normal person can reason that when HCDE shuts its doors, Head Start will still operate the same centers as it does now. All that will change for Head Start in Harris County is the location of this particular office and some of its procedures. Shutting down HCDE will NOT shut down Head Start in Harris County. The director of this Head Start program would be given a time window to update the contract with the Feds and then time to find a new office space. If they can’t figure out how to run it without HCDE, then they can travel all around the state to learn from all those who operate Head Start programs without the benefit of a local taxpayer supported county department of education building.

 

To quote the Fed’s:

Head Start programs have an indefinite project period. Therefore, once the grant is awarded, the organization will continue as the grantee agency unless they decide they no longer want the grant (relinquishment) or are terminated for cause. In these cases, the funds are still available for the service area and will be awarded throughcompetition.”[xxx][xxx]

 

#3- Is Unconstitutional

 

Remember Texas Constitution 7.1…” support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools”? Our local school district taxes are collected to support our free public schools. But HCDE is providing services to organizations all over Texas and the US.

 

Of the 400 “Entities” HCDE reports serving, ONLY 26 are Harris County School Districts.[xxxi][xxxi]

 

The Texas Constitution says nothing about local tax dollars to support public free schools in Minnesota, Ohio, Missouri, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Arkansas! A quick look at the purchasing cooperative offered by HCDE shows that Harris County tax payers are quite generous. Not only do they supply the beautiful building with state of the art technology supported by an abundance of personnel, they provide services so other organizations around the country can also benefit from HCDE[xxxii][xxxii]. Organizations like:

 

APPLY VALLEY, MINNESOTA BROWNSVILLE HOUSING AUTHRTY BENBROOK WATER AUTHORITY

BRUNSWICK CITY SCHOOLS (OHIO) CENIKOR FOUNDATION DENTON COUNTY

DEVEREUX FOUNDATION DONA ANA COUNTY, NM EL PASO HOUSING FINANCE CORP.

HIDALGO CTY DRAINAGE DIST #1 MINNEAPOLIS, MN NORTH LITTLE ROCK SCHOOL DIST

O’FALLON, MISSOURI RAINDROP FOUNDATION PRAIRIE VIEW A&M UNIVERS

SAM HOUSTON STATE UNIVERSITYITY ST. CECILIA CATHOLIC SCHOOL ST. FRANCIS DE SALES SCHOOL

STEPHEN F. AUSTIN UNIVERSITY TARRANT COUNTY COLLEGE DIST. TEXAS SOUTHERN UNIVERSITY

TEXAS STATE TECH. COLLEGE TEXAS STATE UNIVERSITY TEXAS TECH UNIVERSITY

TEXAS WOMAN’S UNIVERSITY TEXAS A&M CORPUS CHRISTI TEXAS A&M COMMERCE

TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY HSC REGION I ESC REGION II ESC

UNITED WAY GREATER HOUSTON UNIV. OF NORTH TEXAS UNIV. TEXAS SYSTEM

UNIVERSITY PARK, TEXAS WESTERLY PUBLIC SCHOOLS (RI) WEYMOUTH, MA.

 

 

 

A look at the way HCDE spends money shows it is NOT an “efficient system of public free schools”. They use tax dollars to operate a fully staffed “Marketing” department. Now what school district offering a wonderful educational service to their local community needs a marketing department that travels all over the country promoting itself? What school district allows the purchase of $250 gift cards to be given as awards (door prizes) at conventions? What school district allows its administrators to stay at the Ritz Carlton? The list goes on and on. You can see for yourself by selecting any month at the bottom of the page:[xxxiii][xxxiii] http://www.hcde-texas.org/preview.aspx?name=BusinessServicesFinancialReports2011

 

Some Examples:[xxxiv][xxxiv]

 

11/03/2010 Target Awards recognition Gift card for recruitment booth at TOTA conf

$250.00

10/19/2010 Apogee Publications Ads,Bids & Notices Advertising – NAOEP

$1000.00

09/10/10 GlobalGoals Ads,Bids & Notices TCUF – ConferenceSponsorship

$2500.00

09/13/2010 NAEP INC RentalSpace Events TOAL conf booth

$650.00

09/23/2010 TASBO RentalSpace Events 1 booth for CFP

$1050.00

12/21/2010 FrenchCorner Food/refresh Staff Luncheon Meeting

$611.50

11/03/2010 FilterfreshHouston Food/refresh Tea & Coffee Service at

$3314.83

10/04/2010 Dave & Busters Food/refresh Dinner 4 the End of Yr. Policy Council Banquet

$1449.98

08/18/2010 Panera Bread #4111 Food/refresh Lunch for mtgw/League of Women Voters

$97.21

09/24/2010 SAMSCLUB #4712 General Supplies Fall Festival door prizes

$77.78

09/27/2010 THE RITZ CARLTON PNTGN Employee Travel-Lodging Hotel Expence for CHarris

$724.35

09/17/2010 4IMPRINT General Supplies Promotional Items

$1,513.14

09/20/2010 APL*ITUNES Software Purchases Software for IPAD – L. Pitr

$36.77

09/10/2010 FINGERPRINT SERVICE Professional Services Fingerprint Services for Yolanda

$45.45

 

 

From August to December of 2010, HCDE employees spent $72,593 in “Food/Refreshment” purchases. In August alone a sampling of employee expenses totaled $34,257.58. One employee raked up $690.34 in taxi rides between HCDE owned buildings from August 2010 through February 2011.

 

When the Texas Constitution says…“support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools” it does NOT give a school board the power to tax local citizens and throw the money away on food, travel and pet projects, especially to benefit others outside their district and their state.

 

 

 

#4 Operates For-Profit Businesses

 

On Oct. 1, 2010, MGT of America, Inc. released its performance review of HCDE.[xxxv][xxxv]

Page 1-12 reads: “…HCDE is currently engaged in instructional programs and services as well as entrepreneurial initiatives.” What???

 

Why on earth is a school district risking local tax dollars on “entrepreneurial initiatives”? Well, when you don’t have any REAL purpose, you have to invent something to do.

 

One is called Choice Facilities Partners (CFP). According to the report,

“… (CFP) is a unique purchasing cooperative created in 2006 … to support a variety of facility needs in any governmental agency …both in and outside of Texas. Unlike other cooperatives in the Department, CFP buys nothing and sells no physical product. Most of the other HCDE cooperatives exist at least in part to support HCDE activities, including purchasing, records storage, etc. CFP started as a Job Order Contracting (JOC) program in 2006, but has since grown to provide a wide range of facility-related services, including construction, energy conservation and management, furnishings, fixtures, and equipment (FFE), disaster recovery, and building exteriors and grounds. In each area, CFP has researched the need, issued the RFP, reviewed and approved qualified service providers, and created contracts for others to use. The services are free to the governmental agency and paid for based on a percentage of the contract between the agency and vendor. CFP acts as the conduit to connect the agency with qualified vendors and will monitor, audit, and intervene on behalf of both vendors and contracting governmental agencies, as requested. Through this process, agencies should be able to save time and move forward with projects both more quickly and more efficiently than by bidding for qualified vendors themselves.[xxxvi][xxxvi]

 

 

The first 2 years in operation, this taxpayer funded “entrepreneurial initiative” reported a total loss of revenue of $284,106. But, unlike real business entrepreneurs who have to make a profit to earn a paycheck, CFP stuck it out and in 09-10 made $931,328 in profits.[xxxvii][xxxvii]

 

I know I am only a retired teacher who knows nothing about business, but I can see two major problems with this government run business model. First, CFP is taking jobs away from the private sector; and second, their profits are tax exempt. That makes HCDE an agent of wealth redistribution. Their government run business is taking money that should have been made by private contractors, keeping it all, and sending it to the causes they deem fit. CFP sure has that government run socialism ring to it!

 

But more disheartening to me is another quote in the report about CFP:

 

” The data included in Exhibit 5-14 indicates that some staff members have received consultant contracts. In FY 10, staff person #1 received $2,428 and staff person #2 received $72,800. The information provided is not sufficient to determine the work done…One consultant shares office space in the CFP area. He has worked with the Division since 2008-2009. He reports directly to the Superintendent, although he is shown on the organizational chart as reporting to the CFP Director. During the onsite review, MGT was told that he makes regular monthly reports to the Board regarding his activities. A review of minutes since 2007 found only two references to this consultant. Those were reports of presentations with the CFP Director at conferences on 7/17/07 and 4/15/08…

 

MGT recommends a complete review and appropriate reduction in the use of consultants providing services for the CFP unit. MGT does not assert that any of the contracts shown in Exhibit 5-14 are inappropriate. However, MGT believes that CFP has an excessive number of consultant contracts, including contracts for staff that are not based on best practices. Staff should be compensated through the salary schedule and any additional contracts should only be for work that is clearly outside the already paid role of the staff person.[xxxviii][xxxviii]

 

 

Some might think it sounds great that a school district is running a few profit-making businesses on the side to bring in extra funds. Great that school district employees can make some extra money on the side as private contractors in one of the districts government run businesses.

 

But then there is that pesky line in the Texas Constitution, Article 7.1 that reads, “…it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.” The business of a school district should be to use the funds established by the Legislature to educate their local students. Not to risk taxpayer funds on business ventures that take jobs away from local contractors.

 

 

#5 Poor Performance

 

HCDE’s performance review does list items like financial transparency that HCDE is doing well. It also boasts a high job satisfaction rating among HCDE employees. [xxxix][xxxix]

Texas State Comptroller, Susan Combs, has given HCDE “gold status”[xl][xl] for financial transparency in the “Independent School District” category for a ”self-scoring checklist [xli][xli]that evaluates how local governments provide online access to their expenses and revenue. “

 

But the report also lists items where improvement is recommended. Some examples below show that while HCDE boasts about being a leader in education, it can’t run its administration building or schools properly.

 

HCDE does NOT make long range plans for students or facilities.

 

Their curriculum is NOT aligned with TEA standards.

 

Even though they offer Special Education training to other school districts, in surveys their special schools received the LOWEST ratings.

 

They provide “Safe Schools” training to other districts but their own Emergency Response Plan is lacking.

 

Other areas they are lacking include salary schedules, employee reference checks, job descriptions, etc.

 

They also do not have controls in place for employee use of the Internet. An internal HCDE report shows that over a 2 month period “34 percent of network activity was for social networking site visits. This was the highest percentage of any sites and there were over 3.6 million page views recorded. The report clearly indicates that there is substantial volume related to HCDE employees using social networking sites. “ [xlii][xlii]

 

That is an average of 2400 page views per employee – 40 per day!

 

Some highlights of the report:[xliii][xliii]

 

  1. HCDE lacks a comprehensive, long-range plan …” (pg 1-11)
  2. Consider the elimination of the HCDE Alternative Certification Program…The Alternative Certification Program for Teachers has certified 15 teachers since its inception and program expenditures exceed revenues by over $19,000 annually. By contrast, Region 4 has had an effective alternative certification program for nearly 20 years. Region 4 certified 1,000 program completers for the 2009-10 school year and 1,100 the prior year.…”(pg 2-38)
  3. “HCDE has not evaluated the fidelity of the Highpoint discipline program implementation at the Highpoint School to determine its effectiveness, consistency with national research findings, or improved student outcomes.MGT consultants did not find evidence of key indicators for measuring student outcomes or program effectiveness during onsite visits or interviews. While the Boys Town Education Model is recognized nationwide as an effective program, HCDE has no fidelity or student outcome measures in place to determine its effectiveness in the alternative environment of the Academic and Behavior Center model.” 2-55)
  4. “While the Academic and Behavior Centers provided services for 100 percent of the students that were referred by the client school districts, the 2008-09 Division of Research and Evaluation Report documented that only 64.7 percent of the client school districts were satisfied with the Academic and Behavior Center services. Survey results showed a decrease in the overall program quality from 2007-08 (92.9% quality satisfaction) to 2008-09 (64.7 percent quality satisfaction)”.(pg 2/57)
  5. The Academic and Behavior Center Campus Improvement Plan are not comprehensive and do not adequately address the need for improvement.” (pg 2-57)
  6. The curriculum and instruction at the Academic and Behavior Center are not adequately aligned with the Texas Department of Education general education curriculum content standards or alternative or modified assessments.”(pg 2-59)
  7. “Student transitions from Academic and Behavior Center to the home campus are in need of improvement…Client satisfaction surveys (2008-09) indicate that of all Academic and Behavior Center services, the participating school districts are least satisfied with the transition program from Academic and Behavior Center back to the home campus. Further, the surveys indicate that the transition program does not provide adequate assistance the home campus when students from Academic and Behavior Center return to their home school”(pg 2-63)
  8. “Based on client district surveys, Highpoint Schools received the lowest rating (3.04 on a 4.0 scale) of all services provided by the HCDE…the Highpoint School does not have suitable, written campus improvement plans. Further, the Highpoint School does not adequately address targeted, research-based strategies for students who are high-risk for dropping out of school.”(pg 2-66)
  9. ““The Highpoint School does not follow curriculum pacing guides that are aligned with the Texas Education Agency core content standards and there is no… curriculum committee or organized unit established to review the current curriculum scope and sequence or write curriculum pacing guides . “ (pg 2-67)
  10. The Highpoint School does not provide adequate staff development to regarding, differentiated instruction, accommodations, and research-based instructional strategies.”(pg2-70)
  11. “The Department should establish a transition process for students entering and exiting the Highpoint School. (2-72)
  12. “HCDE lacks a comprehensive system for annually reviewing job descriptions to ensure alignment of current job performance responsibilities with previous job performance responsibilities”(4-6)
  13. HR does not have a process for the development, implementation, and evaluation of a long-range divisional plan. HR typically conducts a one-day planning retreat in the summer of each year. During that retreat, Division staff review their annual goals for the previous year and set goals for the coming fiscal year. Interviews with staff reveal that this activity did not occur during the summer of 2009; however, the HR Director did develop goals/projects for 2009-10 without stakeholder or staff input. A review of the ―Human Resources Long- Term Goals and Projects provided by the Human Resource Director (Exhibit 4-4) did not have evidence of specific planning activities/tasks, time lines, budget information, or evaluation criteria, nor did these goals align with other departmental goals and objectives.” (4-10)
  14. “HCDE does not have a formal process for the classification/reclassification of positionsand the assignment of pay grades.”(4-14)
  15. “HR does not have a comprehensive process for conducting employee reference checks,which could result in important employment information being overlooked.”(4-16)
  16. “HCDE does not have a system for automating and storing regularly used HR forms, resulting in an inefficient use of staff. With the exception of benefit services, which is provided through a contract by Education Service Center Region 4, other processes require staff to provide employees paper forms or to e-mail the forms upon the request of an employee. When the forms are completed and returned, the HR staff is required to manually process the forms and file as appropriate.”(4-20)
  17. “HR does not have a single, comprehensive salary schedule that reflects all salaries for the organization.” (4-22)
  18. “It was not clear who provided supervision or evaluation of staff in CFP, although they described themselves as a “well-working” team” (5-6)
  19. “HCDE does not have a comprehensive facilities master plan, although it owns and operates four special schools, owns 13 other facilities, and leases space in another 20 buildings” (5-15)
  20. “A report provided by the technology network staff shows that between February 19, 2010 and April 5, 2010, 34 percent of network activity was for social networking site visits. This was the highest percentage of any sites and there were over 3.6 million page views recorded. The report clearly indicates that there is substantial volume related to HCDE employees using social networking sites. While some of this activity may be used as marketing strategy, the Department does not have an updated Board policy relating to the specific use of these sites.Therefore,staff may be accessing the sites for reasons other than marketing HCDE services.”6-15
  21. “The review team was unable to identify a position assigned to coordinate all of HCDE’s internal safety and security activities. Because of this lack of coordination, personnel in human resources report that they do not know where to obtain updated copies of the Emergency Response Plan for new employees, and personnel interviewed in other divisions were unsure of how to obtain safety training.” (7-5)

 

Comments by persons receiving services by HCDE posted by MGT of America:[xliv][xliv]

 

  1. “It seems that some of the programs are duplications of the Region Service Center. Many times we have registered staff for workshops/sessions only to have the workshop cancelled. This happened with Spanish Six Plus One Writing Traits more than once. One other session was also cancelled due to lack of participants. We now look to Region 4 ESC first for out of district staff development. HCDE does not do the best job in promoting its workshops and services.” (8-9)
  2. Remove any costs that are supported by tax-based subsidy and convert to a private, non-profit that exists through fees and grants to support the education community. (8-9)
  3. Developing instructional materials, having mini-conferences, especially in mathematics to be aligned with ESTAR and MSTAR like Region 4 does. (8-10)

 

Summary

 

HCDE played a very important role in establishing Harris County schools in the early 1900’s but we now live in 2011. HCDE outlived its purpose decades ago but personal agendas and greed have kept it open, sitting quietly in the background sucking up taxpayer dollars and introducing federal programs into our local community.

 

It is time for HCDE to close its doors, end its taxing authority, divide its assets among the 26 independent school districts of Harris County, and send its successful programs to Texas Regional Education Service Centers or private, non-profit organization like the Education Foundation of Harris County. [xlv][xlv]

 

The elected HCDE Board won’t relinquish its power on its own, and we don’t have any Texas politicians with enough backbone to even bring up the subject.

 

WE THE PEOPLE need to use our voice and vote to get the job done.

 

As Harris County taxpayers you can:

 

1. Contact your elected HCDE Board members:

http://www.hcde-texas.org/default.aspx?name=BoardMembers

2. Contact your Texas Legislators: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/

3. Sign the Petition to the Board and Legislature:

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/shut_down_hcde/

4. Educate your neighbors

5. Vote in a new HCDE Board Members and Legislators in 2012 that will make the changes needed

 

As Texas voters you can:

 

1. Educate your neighbors

2. Voice your opinions to your Legislators: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/

3. Vote in new Legislators in 2012 that will make the changes needed

 

 

 

Our nation is in a financial mess. We have to start by looking in our own backyard, find the waste ourselves, educate our neighbors and then force our legislators to make the changes needed. If we sit back and wait for the politicians to do it, there will be nothing left to leave our grandchildren but debt.

 

Colleen Vera

Retired Texas Teacher

www.TexasTrashTalk.com

 

 

 

Footnotes:

 


 


 


 




[xviii][xviii] http://mansfield.tea.state.tx.us/TEA.AskTED.Web/Forms/ViewDirectory.aspx

TEA school report – Line # 3950-3956 shows all HCDE schools active with “0” students enrolle

[xx][xx] https://wfspcprdap1b16.tea.state.tx.us/Fsp/Payments/ledger.aspx?district=101000&year=2011&ledger=1&data=1

[xxvi][xxvi] http://maps.yahoo.com/dd_result.php?ard=1&q1=6300+IRVINGTON+BLVD++77022++++++++&q2=7145+West+Tidwell++77092&fr2=sc-sb&fr=sc-sb#mvt=m&lat=29.827625&lon=-95.43314&zoom=13&q1=6300%20IRVINGTON%20BLVD%2077022%20&q2=7145%20West%20Tidwell%2077092

[xxviii][xxviii] http://mansfield.tea.state.tx.us/TEA.AskTED.Web/Forms/ReportViewer.aspx

[xxx][xxx] http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/tta- system/operations/Fiscal/Narrative%20Discussions/ApplicationandG.htm

http://www.hcde-texas.org/docs/221-4185%20MGT%20Final%20Report%2012-07-10.pdf

[xxxi][xxxi]

[xlv][xlv] http://www.educationfoundation.info/

 

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